Lowering the Bar is written by Kevin Underhill. Lowering the Bar is a legal-humor website that provides and comments on weird news with some relationship to civil or criminal law. It also provides an archive of the many legal opinions, pleadings, and other legal documents that are funnier (intentionally or not) than they have any right to be.
There are a number of reasons for this. Here are four:
Murder is illegal;
Hiring someone else to do it is also illegal;
You will probably just have to accept the form contract the hit man gives you; and
Enforcing that contract if breached is going to be problematic.
That last one is because (1) the hit man is presumably just as willing to kill you, and (2) you can’t exactly go to the authorities for help.
And yet people do.
According to El País, two women in Madrid did this recently, after the man they hired to kill someone (well, they hired him to hire someone to kill someone) failed to get the job done. In fact, they suspected the man had not even been telling them the truth in the first place when he claimed to be a spy who could arrange the whole operation. And so they decided to contact the police to report this outrageous fraud.
The backstory is worth mentioning because it is equally stupid. A 52-year-old woman and her 20-year-old daughter were apparently swindled out of 60,000 euros (about $53K in US money no! $68k) by the mother’s partner (either then, or shortly thereafter, her ex-partner). The younger woman mentioned this to her current partner, who came up with a plan to help them “deal with the situation.”
Here is that plan.
According to the report, the younger woman’s boyfriend “managed to convince her that he worked in the secret service,” so that story apparently works for some guys, and that he could help get the money back from the swindler. “First they would locate him”—a necessary step in any operation of this kind—”then kill him and harvest his organs.” (I take it they knew the guy no longer had the money, because otherwise this part seems unnecessarily complicated.) The seven unspecified organs they planned to harvest could be sold for, coincidentally, 60,000 euros, and the women would then receive a check in that amount.
I was just kidding above about the written contract, but these people actually sat down and wrote out a contract for the murder/organ harvest. Though El País irritatingly does not provide a copy of this document, they quote a bit of it. “The search for the [target] is established as a priority,” it began, because as noted it is difficult to kill someone you can’t find. The contract reportedly then provided for locating the target (important) by interrogating family members, friends, and acquaintances, and once he was located, “the extraction of seven organs” would commence. Again, it doesn’t say which seven, but this “extraction” would probably equate to a murder either at the beginning or somewhere along the way. El hombre del servicio secreto just needed about 7,000 euros to get started, and the women agreed. “But time passed, and the hit did not take place.”
Eventually deciding that they had been conned yet again, the women decided to go to the police for help. Presumably to their great surprise, they were promptly arrested for attempting to arrange a murder. The boyfriend was also arrested, so maybe that made them feel a little better, but I think they’re probably worse off than he is at this point.
Police have confirmed that the gentleman who allegedly stole the original 60,000 euros is “in a perfect state of health,” which I think necessarily implies he still has all his original parts (or at least the important ones). An arrest for his part in the whole fiasco “is yet to be ruled out.”
The report says that police called the investigation into this matter “Operation Kafka,” though unless Kafka wrote something about four stupid people, or somebody turned into a bug, I don’t really see how that fits.
This stupid murder-for-hire plot reminded me of this actually far stupider murder-for-hire plot that I mentioned back in 2011. The lesson of that story, or the main lesson, at least, is that if you come up with a plan and step one of that plan is “kill a bear,” your plan sucks.
It appears to be Judge John B. Owens, who wrote the opinion for a unanimous court. It could, of course, be his clerk, but regardless, somebody there is still super-upset about how that last season of Game of Thrones played out:
Usually when you see something like this it’s prompted by something else in the opinion—a name or something that triggers the reference. But here it just comes out of nowhere. The case involves application of the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 to claims brought by the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust, and while I admit I only binge-watched a couple of seasons I don’t remember anything like that coming up.
Maybe “Northern Trust” conjured it up, given that at least half the Stark family died from stupidly trusting people?
More likely, this has just been really bothering somebody for a while and it suddenly just came out the first time the word “meaningless” was used in their presence.
“Well, I believe that argument would render the earlier case meaningless— “I agree, and OH, YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE WAS MEANINGLESS, THAT WHOLE NIGHT KING STORYLINE! GLAD I LOOKED FORWARD TO THAT FOR SEVEN YEARS! AND DAENERYS SUDDENLY BECAME A MASS MURDERER? WHAT HAPPENED THERE? DID SOMEBODY PUT METH IN HER STARBUCKS CUP? SPEAKING OF MURDER, WHY WOULDN’T ABOUT TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE HAVE STABBED JON SNOW AFTER HE ADMITTED HE KILLED THE QUEEN? INSTEAD THEY JUST ALL WENT HOME? ‘OH, OKAY, I GUESS WE’RE DONE HERE. BYE!’ NOT SURE HOW THERE WERE ANY DOTHRAKI LEFT ANYWAY SINCE THEY ALL CHARGED AT THE ZOMBIE ARMY IN THE DARK! LIKE A BUNCH OF IDIOTS! BUT THERE THEY WERE! YOU KNOW? … Anyway, yes, I agree about the Troice case. Good point.”
I forgot to mention that I would be taking a brief hiatus during the week of the 4th, mainly because I didn’t know I’d be taking it. But then, there I was, on hiatus, and then after a while I wasn’t. Well, enough of this heartwarming preliminary banter.
Elks v. Elks: I didn’t know San Francisco had an Elks Lodge, but it appears to have at least three, based on a June 17 filing entitled San Francisco Elks Lodge No. 3 v. Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America (Case No. CPF-19-516703, SF Superior Court). The petition alleges, among other things, that the Grand Exalted Ruler suddenly and unconstitutionally deposed the Exalted Ruler and Leading Knight, so that’s what’s going on there.
For a much dumber dispute involving a much older fraternal group, see “Knights Templar v. Pope Benedict XVI, et al.” (Aug. 19, 2008) (discussing a $150-billion lawsuit by a group claiming to be the Knights Templar, accusing the Catholic Church of certain wrongful actions in the year 1307 anno Domini).
It sometimes happens that a bandit develops such a reputation that the mere mention of his name will strike fear into the heart of even the most steadfast citizen, but let’s be honest: the Serial Toilet Clogger of Sheboygan is not among them.
Back in 2011, a number of Democratic legislators fled their home states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio in order to avoid controversial votes, the idea being to deprive the other side of a quorum for a vote they were almost certain to lose. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, which is why they were mentioned in Assorted Stupidity #14. So it is more than fair to mention here in #125 that Republican legislators in Oregon recently did the same thing. Well, one of the Republicans also pretty much threatened to kill any state troopers sent to bring him back, so there is that difference.
Did it also define “vegetables” to include “fruits”? Yes it did. (Also “flowers” and perhaps more significantly “herbs,” though state and federal laws regarding certain such herbs will continue to apply.) But let us not be too critical under the circumstances.
When a 71-year-old Kansas City man said he had robbed a bank (sort of) because he would rather go to jail than keep living with his wife, some wiseasses suggested that releasing him would be the appropriate punishment. See, e.g., Assorted Stupidity #95 (Sept. 20, 2016). Well, they were almost right. On June 13, he was sentenced to six months of house arrest (along with probation, community service, and a small fine). Prosecutors and bank employees asked for leniency, saying they believed the man when he said he had been depressed at the time over health issues and was sorry for what he had done.
Several good sentences in this item about the latest person to try going through airport security naked. “The TSA officers didn’t allow the [naked] man through the detector” is one of them, especially because they did allow him to just run past it. “I’m just shocked he got that far through TSA” is another one, uttered by a witness who apparently has not been paying any attention at all since 2002. “[P]olice and fire departments … determined that the man did not pose a threat” is a third, because he was naked. See also, e.g., “TSA: Wants to See You Naked, Complains When You Get That Way” (Apr. 18, 2012) (and the rest of that saga).
I have received an email from a government agency that reads, “Kevin, here is a copy of the 1955 Beaver report you requested,” and I will follow up on that just as soon as I remind myself why I apparently requested a 1955 beaver report from a government agency.
Okay, this is why. Sadly, the report does not answer the question, partly because I believed it was much more recent. But I have still asked that it be declassified, and will make it available if the government comes through on that.
But not to the question “How many times?” That’s really the problem. Sort of a mismatch, if you will, between query and response.
This case involved a series of such mismatches, and they were deliberate, and went on for almost ten hours, according to the Delaware Supreme Court, which reprinted lengthy excerpts in a 20-page addendum to a recent opinion. The deposition misconduct had nothing at all to do with the issues on appeal, which tells you something about how bad it was. The trial court ordered the offending party to pay over $32,000 in fees and costs for wasting everybody’s time, and criticized her lawyers for not doing something about it.
The opinion is otherwise a snore, which is not really the court’s fault although I’ve included the first couple of pages below just to point out, yet again, how irritating and unnecessary it is to spend the first couple paragraphs (“Paragraphs”) of every legal document (“Document”) defining every possible term (“Term”) you might use (collectively, the “Terms Used Herein”) in case the reader (“Reader”) is a complete idiot (“Trump”). To the extent we care, the case involved a partnership dispute regarding theaters in San Francisco. (Two of the three entities are Delaware LLCs, hence that state’s involvement.) One of the significant parties is Carole Shorenstein Hays (“Carole,” the court tells us, or collectively with her husband, “the Hayses”), and her ridiculous deposition antics are the reason we’re here.
The addendum pretty much speaks for itself, and yet I’m going to mention a couple of the worst examples here anyway. The deposition started off okay, apparently, with this exchange:
Q. Have you ever been deposed before?
So far, so good. In fact, two perfectly good exchanges also followed. Then, the fourth:
Q. What was the matter [in which you were deposed] about?
A. It was a difference of opinions.
Oh, a lawsuit that involved differing opinions? Thank you, ma’am, I have nothing further.
It appears the questioner did not yet realize just how long this day was going to be, but that can’t have taken long. Because at only page 11, this happened:
Q. You told me you met with your counsel to prepare for the deposition.
Q. How many times?
A. Well, see, I think of time as a continuum. So I think I met with them from the beginning to the end. And the beginning was the start, and then there was the rehearsal, and then there was the preview, and now it’s what I think of as the performance. So, in my mind, I’m answering what you’re asking. If you could be more specific. Do you want hours?
A. Oh, I don’t wear a watch. So I know the sun coming up in the morning and the moon coming up at night.
Here they were apparently discussing a somewhat cryptic email exchange:
Q. Why did you write “Yipppppe de da”?
A. I like using that word.
Q. What meaning were you trying to convey?
A. Yipppppe de da, doo da, you know, a jazz term.
Q. And what does that mean when it’s used in an e-mail like this?
A. Different beats along the way.
Q. That’s what you meant to convey –
A. Trumpets, yeah.
Q. You meant to convey to your husband trumpets?
I just checked, and this is the only time the term “yipppppe de da” has appeared in an American judicial opinion.
Because you can read the rest of it below, I’ll just say, as the court did: “This is a representative but incomplete identification of Hays’s ridiculous and problematic responses to questions.” (Wait—weren’t we going to call her “Carole”? Oh, forget it.)
The court criticizes not only Hays, but also the big-firm lawyers who were there on her behalf, because they made “no attempt to put an end to Hays’s flagrantly evasive, nonresponsive, and flippant answers,” and rebuffed at least one plea from the other side to do something about it. Though the sanctions weren’t challenged on appeal, the court addressed the issue “to remind counsel that they have a responsibility to intercede and not sit idly by as their client engages in abusive deposition misconduct.” Or to help. See, e.g., “Deponent and Counsel Jointly Sanctioned $367 Per F-Bomb” (Mar. 6, 2008).
According to the report, a court has ruled in favor of Abdel-Adheem Hassan, who was suing a telecom company in Sudan (possibly the telecom company in Sudan) for cutting off access to the internet. It was ordered to do this by the generals currently running the country, who in April kicked out former president and indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir. He got to be president in the first place by kicking out the previous guy in a military coup of his own, and then there were also those war crimes, so don’t feel bad for Omar al-Bashir. But while military rule may have been an improvement, that hardly means things are good. One example of this is the internet blackout the rulers ordered recently after killing dozens of protesters in Khartoum. (I first wrote “violently suppressing,” but I fixed that.)
Hassan apparently filed a lawsuit against the company, Zain Sudan, seeking an order lifting the blackout. He seems to have won a somewhat limited victory, according to the report, which begins: “A lawyer in Sudan has told the BBC that the internet has been restored after a three-week shutdown—but only for him.”
The article isn’t very clear as to why the order applies only to him. He said this was because he filed the case only in his “personal capacity.” Maybe they don’t have class actions there, but if he was seeking an injunction, it seems like he could have drafted the proposed order a little more broadly. On the other hand, he said he is going back to court today, and then again tomorrow, hoping to get the right restored for more people. “Hopefully one million people will gain internet access by the end of the week,” he told the BBC. That’d certainly be a big improvement. It would still be 40 million or so short of the whole population, but then it is hard to say how many people had internet access in Sudan to begin with. (It’s hard to say how many people live in Sudan, for that matter.) One million might be, for all intents and purposes, everybody.
But when Hassan says he is now the one person “able” to access the internet, it seems likely that means “legally able, according to this piece of paper I have.” The BBC said that, according to him, he’s “currently the only civilian in the country able to access the internet without resorting to complicated hacks,” which suggests some people can still access the internet illegally despite the blackout, if they know how. (I think this is usually the case but am no expert.) But because the place is still under military rule, and military leaders tend to not care too much about court orders, it seems unlikely that Hassan’s access now is any different than it was before. Unsurprisingly, a BBC reporter in Khartoum confirmed that the internet remains blocked (at least for everyone who isn’t Hassan) despite the court order.
Still, good for him, whether he is actually now the sole legally authorized internet user in the country or not. What he’s doing is probably dangerous, and even if the order doesn’t accomplish anything immediately—or ever—it’s still a brave thing to do. Whether the people of Sudan want to use the internet to organize, or just look at cat pictures like we do, they should be able to do that.
What? Yeah, of course they do. Absolutely. No question about it. I mean, some of these cases do require legal analysis, but this isn’t one of those cases. Nope. The headline was really more of a rhetorical question, to be completely honest with you. Yes indeed, DUI laws do apply in this situation.
Might be an issue with enforcing them. But they apply.
This particular case reportedly happened on Thursday, June 13, in Pajęczno, a small town in south-central Poland. (It was reported in Newsweek, which got the story from a local newspaper, Twoje Pajęczno.) According to Wikipedia, Pajęczno is about 40 kilometers north of Częstochowa, if that helps you at all; it’s the county capital; and it has a population of just under 7,000 people. And here’s everything else it’s known for, at least according to that Wikipedia article:
First mentioned in historical sources from 1140, it had city rights between 1276 and 1870, and again from 1958.
On 14th June 2019 a drunk man drove through the town in a T-55 tank and was arrested shortly after.
The current mayor is Dariusz Tokarski.
It’s that second one we’re interested in today.
According to the reports, the tank was being transported on a trailer, though it’s not clear where it was headed. T-55s are still used by quite a few countries around the world, but apparently not in Poland, so it’s possible it was en route to a museum or something like that. In any event, the trailer was damaged somehow, the tank was removed from it, and the trailer was taken away to be repaired. The truck driver apparently passed the time by getting drunk, and there was nothing else to do, and one thing led to another, and so by about 9:30 pm on the 13th police were getting reports that somebody was driving a tank through town.
Luckily for police, the tank was already parked when they showed up. Two men were standing next to it, namely the driver and one passenger. The driver was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, and as noted above there is little question that such laws would apply to someone who was operating an armored vehicle at the time. Given the nature of the vehicle—in this case, a 36-ton main battle tank—additional charges may also be forthcoming, and here the man was also charged with creating “direct danger of a catastrophe in land, water, or air traffic.” Whatever that means, exactly, it carries an eight-year prison sentence, four times the penalty for driving a regular vehicle while drunk.
The reports say the driver also did not have insurance.
The T-55 tank is the most dangerous of the unusual vehicles we’ve discussed, the (fairly distant) runner-up most likely being the motorized bar stool mentioned here. That wasn’t likely to crush anyone, but it could reportedly hit speeds of up to 38 miles per hour, so, also somewhat dangerous.
Every month, the county auctions off properties for which the tax bill hasn’t been paid, and in Broward this is done online. Ten properties were up for sale on March 20, including Parcel 494105-15-1371. The bidding for that parcel started at just $2,106.06, suggesting a fantastic deal might be available for the property shown above. A bidding war commenced between four interested buyers, but when the auction was over, one man was the proud owner of Parcel 494105-15-1371, having placed the winning bid of $9,100. He was pretty happy, too, because the villa at 8107 NW 100th Way is worth closer to $200K.
Sir, you bought Parcel 494105-15-1371.
No. Not villa. One-foot strip adjacent to villa.
Correct. As the Sun-Sentinel reported on Saturday, the man who “won” the auction for Parcel 494105-15-1371 is now the significantly less-proud owner of a 1′ x 100′ strip of land that starts at the curb and runs between the driveways and garages of the two villas shown above, under the dividing wall and on to the back of the lot. In other words, while he seems to have thought he was buying this:
—he actually bought this:
Literally, the red strip.
“It’s deception,” said the buyer, described as a “first-time auction bidder,” who as you may have guessed wants his money back. “There was no demarcation to show you it’s just a line going through [the duplex], even though they have the tools to show that.” Yep, they do—as you can see from the images above. The county says he should have used those tools, and that whether he did or not, he’s stuck with the result.
To be fair, while the county’s websites aren’t bad, they aren’t great, either, and there was some confusing data out there about this parcel. As the buyer pointed out, the appraiser’s website depicts the parcel this way:
One who saw only this image could be forgiven for not understanding that the “parcel” in question is only the teeny one there in between two other people’s driveways.
The problem for the buyer, though, is that there is plenty of other evidence on the websites that should have raised red flags. For example, if you look up the parcel number, its address is just “NW 100 Way”—it doesn’t have an actual street number, like “8107 NW 100th Way.” Also, the legal description is given as “107-39 B LOT 137 NLY 1 FT,” and while it takes a little digging to find out that “NLY” means “northerly,” the “1 FT” part is pretty straightforward. And then there’s this screen, which is cryptic but does say the land’s assessed value is only $50, and contains a “100” next to the letters “SF”:
In the world of property, “SF” is very likely to mean “square feet.” So none of that is good for the buyer.
On the other hand, it is strange that this piece of turf was ever defined as a separate “parcel” at all. It seems more likely there was a mistake in defining the adjacent parcels, and this strip was just left over. According to the report, it still belonged to the subdivision’s developer until that company dissolved and stopped paying the taxes. The unhappy buyer apparently has some internal memos in which county officials ponder the oddity of selling a 1′ x 100′ strip of land that runs under someone else’s building, but they decided the relevant statutes required them to put it up for auction. So far as I can tell, nothing in the statutes precluded them from adding a little note about the weird circumstances here, but they chose not to do that. They may have assumed one or both of the villa owners would buy it, but neither did. Nor do they want to buy it now, or at least they’re not interested in paying $9,100 for it. “If we have to move our mailboxes,” one said, “we’ll move our mailboxes.”
If the buyer is stuck with the result, then he’s got this teeny property with somebody else’s house on it. What are his options? Wow, good question. If someone builds a house on your land without permission, you can tear it down, or at least that’s my vague recollection from property class. But in this case, the house was there first, and somebody came along and bought some land underneath it. What happens then?
I know at least two people who don’t have a good answer: (1) me, and (2) the buyer. “If I’m vindictive enough,” he told the Sun-Sentinel, “I can cut right through the garage wall and the home to get to my air space, but what use would that be to me?” Here’s some free advice: no. Do not do that. I may not know the right answer, but I’m pretty sure that one’s wrong.
I have not researched this, which is unlike me, and might be due to lingering PTSD from an especially heinous property question on the bar exam. So this is total speculation, but it might make sense to rescind the contract on the grounds of “unilateral mistake,” since it seems clear the buyer had no idea what he was actually getting into, and that is at least partly the county’s fault. The county could then put the “parcel” up for sale again, this time with full disclosure, and the villa owners could buy it at a more reasonable price. Adverse possession might also be a possibility, if the villa owners have been there long enough. Presumably somebody’s been mowing the grass, thus exercising open and obvious control over that part of the one-foot-wide domain. If that argument works, then the county had nothing to sell in the first place and the strip would effectively have been merged into the larger properties. Everybody could then pretend this never happened.
On winning the meat tray raffle at his local hotel on November 30, 1997, and with at least 15 schooners warming his belly, Mr. [Ross] Lucock strapped pork chops to his feet when told he would be barred from buying more beer because he wasn’t wearing shoes.
But the meat’s greasy residue caused Troy Michael Bowron to slip and fall, breaking his left arm and destroying his career in upholstery.
As is sometimes the case with stories from Down Under, part of this may need to be translated for American readers.
I guess most of it is straightforward enough, apart from the concept of a “meat tray raffle.” This was news to me, at least, when I came across this sign in Hastings a couple of years ago during my sabbatical in the UK. I knew what a “raffle” was, but had never associated it with meat, so the idea of a “meat raffle” seemed quite unusual and, for a reason I couldn’t quite articulate, vaguely sinister. I had to leave Hastings before Sunday (though not for that reason), so I never found out what exactly they were up to.
I’m not the only American who has been puzzled by this practice (see, e.g.,Elizabeth Gilbert, “The Meat Raffle,” The New York Times Magazine (Feb. 5, 2006)), but it is apparently common in Britain and at least some of its former colonies. According to Atlas Obscura, “[m]eat raffles first originated in Britain during World War II,” possibly as a response to food rationing, “and spread to the U.S. and other English-speaking countries after the war.” It did not spread to the Kansas City area, I can tell you that, but according to the same article it is still a thing at least in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and western New York, and may be spreading. But in any event, it is exactly what it sounds like: you buy a ticket, they have a drawing, and the winner gets meat.
Normally the meat is, presumably, eaten. But in the 1997 case, Mr. Lucock decided to put his pork chops to a different use. Well, he won the raffle, so the chops were his property and he could strap them to whatever he wanted. Wearing them as shoes was going to be problematic, though, especially since meat prizes are typically raw and therefore very slippery, but that’s what he did, in order to keep from being cut off. (Seems more likely he was going to be cut off because of the 15 “schooners”—if they cared that he wasn’t wearing shoes, I’m not sure how he got the 15 schooners to begin with—but this is what we’re told.) And someone did slip and fall—but not Mr. Lucock. Rather, a friend of his who was playing pool at the time apparently crossed Mr. Lucock’s greasy path and fell, breaking his arm and ruining what we’re told was a promising career in upholstery.
A lawsuit followed.
The friend sued Mr. Lucock and the pub, apparently arguing that the former created the risk and the latter failed to eliminate it by cleaning it up. According to the report, the plaintiff sought $750,000, and while Australian dollars were smaller then, that still seems like a pretty good payday for an upholsterer. But after a bench trial, the court awarded the plaintiff only $61,515, probably the amount of his medical expenses.
And the guy who wore the pork-chop shoes got off scot-free, apparently because the evidence showed the plaintiff knew his meat-shod friend was walking around near the pool table but did not ask the pub staff to clean up the mess or take any other action to avoid the known risk. The plaintiff not only knew what was happening, the judge noted, he “may even have joined in on the general pantomime that developed when pieces of pork chop disintegrated and were thrown around the room.” (“Pantomime” here presumably means something like “spectacle,” although I like the idea of everybody just miming how much fun they were having.) The judge ordered the pub to pay the plaintiff’s damages, suggesting the evidence showed there was some delay in cleaning up the consequences of its meat raffle.
Seems debatable whether these particular consequences were “foreseeable,” but that’s what the court held. Conduct yourselves accordingly, should you encounter one of these events.
Had a couple of good prospects today up near the top of my insanely long list of things to write about. One was a followup to my recent post on the legal-ethics issues raised by an alleged raccoon murder (see “Is It Unethical to Throw a Raccoon Overboard?” (May 24, 2019)), which involves answering a question many readers have posed about that case, namely, whether state laws or ethics rules would apply to a raccoon murder committed in international waters, a relatively complicated and time-consuming question that requires an analysis of jurisdictional issues at the intersection of federal, state, and international law.
The other was this one.
On June 6, sources reported that deputies in Thurston County, Washington, had located a man who had fled inside a house after being told there was a warrant for his arrest. For some reason, I can’t not analyze whether the initial stop was legal, something that’s not entirely clear from the report. It says the deputies were “looking into a case involving a wanted subject for trafficking stolen property” when they “encountered two individuals outside a home.” That sounds entirely random, but it might have been the wanted subject’s home. Still, being outside a wanted subject’s home isn’t against the law. One of the deputies said the men “were being pretty verbal with us and wouldn’t provide us with information for who they were.” Whatever verbs they used, that wasn’t illegal, either; and so far as I can tell, Washington is one of the states where you’re not required to provide ID unless you’re driving or (according to the ACLU) in “certain cases involving alcohol or marijuana.” No suggestion any of that was involved here.
But, the deputy continued, “I was able to find their booking photos through our jail system and determined that both of them had felony warrants.” Hm. That might mean he took pictures of the “individuals,” which would have been perfectly legal if they were out in public, and then the “jail system” was able to do a reverse image search or something and come up with matching booking photos and associated warrants. I am a little skeptical, but I suppose this is possible.
If so, then they of course could detain the individuals based on the outstanding warrants, and pursue them if they tried to flee. Arguably, they could have pursued this guy into the house immediately under the “exigent circumstances” exception, but they didn’t. Instead, they got a warrant. This took at least 45 minutes, which gave the individual time to hide.
“Once inside the home, however, no one could be found,” even after a room-by-room search. Eventually, a deputy opened a door to a small area where the heater was located, and this happened:
“Right away I saw a chunk of flesh [still attached—”bulge” would have been a better word choice] where his body had blown open the duct work, and I could see the stripes where his Calvin Klein underwear was hanging out,” [the deputy] said. “So I called him by his name and asked if he was OK. It took him a while, and all he said was ‘Hey bro, I can’t breathe.’”
The individual, who is said to be 6′ 5″ tall, had somehow stuffed himself into the duct and an accomplice had screwed the cover on behind him, thusly:
That person had managed to leave the scene, and so if police hadn’t found Individual when they did, who knows how long he’d have been in there or whether he’d have survived (see “Hey bro, I can’t breathe,” supra). Luckily for him, it didn’t take that long to get a search warrant.
The photos above were originally posted to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Twitter account (“TCSO=1 Suspect=0”). I have spared you the one in which the aforementioned stripes of Individual’s Calvin Kleins (and a couple “chunks” of flesh) can be seen as he is hauled out of the vent, but you may view it here if you wish.
It seems fitting that the official state mammal of the District of Columbia should be the bat.
Specifically, it is to be the Little Brown Bat, and so the obvious first question is whether “Little Brown Bat” should be capitalized. (No pun intended, seriously, I don’t do that. Like how I said “immediately” and not “right off the bat”? But then, “capitalized” happened. Anyway.) The bill designates a particular species, Myotis lucifugus (literally, “the mouse-eared one that flees from light,” though that also describes my cousin Steve). The common name for that species is sometimes given as “Little Brown Bat,” but it is also, in fact, a little brown bat. This source, which I think is relatively official, gives “little brown bat” (lower case) as one of the common names for this species, but not the only one. On the other hand, it also claims that another common name for the species is “little brown myotis,” which can’t possibly be true because that is awful, and in any event it gives that one in lower case and capitalized. So this is no help.
If there are any lawyers out there named “Myotis,” I think “Little Brown Myotis” would be a good name for a law firm.
Well, since there are other bats that are little and brown, but are not Myotis lucifugus, I am officially endorsing the D.C. Council’s decision to capitalize “Little Brown Bat” in order to differentiate their official bat from those other ones.
Okay, that’s settled. So why this bat?
According to the bill, which declares that it may be cited as the “Little Brown Bat Official State Mammal Designation Act of 2019,” although the District isn’t a state, the Little Brown Bat is found “throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including on Kingman Island.” The latter turns out to be an artificial island in the Anacostia River, which runs through the eastern part of the District, thus giving D.C. a reasonable territorial claim over the Bat. This island now appears to be a park and nature preserve, which is a big improvement over the area’s condition in the 1880s, when it was a giant mudflat into which the District poured its untreated sewage, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carried malaria and yellow fever, traversed by a foul and stinking waterway known as “Succabel’s Gut.”
Like I said, significant improvement.
This is partly because bats reportedly live there now, and bats are not only neat, they eat a $&#*load of mosquitoes, among other things. But as the bill points out, bats can also roost in places like hollow trees, under bridges, behind shutters, in buildings, and in bat houses.” That last one is something I was going to make fun of except that I once personally bought a “bat house” for my friends Brett and Heather, who I am pretty sure would put it up when I was coming over and then immediately take it down after I left. Which is understandable, but was not at all helpful to the bats, you guys.
And they need our help. Because as the bill also points out, the Little Brown Bat was once the most common bat in America but has been decimated by a disease called White-Nose Syndrome. That has killed 90% of the population in the northeastern U.S., according to the bill, and the species is now endangered. Luckily, “[t]he Little Brown Bat has good friends in the Girl Scouts of the Capitol Hill Cluster School, troops 44046, 44047, and 44051,” who studied the bats and then proposed that the Council adopt them (the bats) as an official symbol. And that is how that happened.
When the bill becomes law, the Little Brown Bat will become one of the District’s relatively few official things, joining its official dinosaur (which, now that Orrin Hatch has retired, is a different herbivore called “Capitalsaurus“), rock (Potomac bluestone), fish (the American shad), amphipod (this one), and fruit (the cherry).